Cubs Spring Training

Cubs' depth chart showcases interesting battles as spring training kicks into gear

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The Chicago Cubs are working to put together their full roster for the 2024 season, and there are some interesting position battles that are unfolding as their Cactus League schedule moves along.

While the team has not yet made the addition of Cody Bellinger official, one would assume that he immediately jumps to the top of the center field depth chart, while also bolstering the team’s roster at first base.

Shota Imanaga also figures to be locked into a rotation spot, while several other candidates could battle it out for the fifth spot in that mix.

So who slots in where? Here’s where things stand in terms of roster battles this spring.

Starting Rotation -

At least three spots in the rotation are fully locked in, with Justin Steele seemingly the frontrunner for the Opening Day start and then Shota Imanaga and Kyle Hendricks backing him in the mix.

Jameson Taillon has to be considered a near-lock for a spot, though the Cubs do have some other options if he gets off to a slow start either in the Cactus League slate or in the regular season.

The big question comes down to that fifth roster spot, and it would appear that there would be four primary contenders. Jordan Wicks figures to be in that mix, going 4-1 with a 4.41 ERA in seven starts last season for the Cubs.

If the Cubs want to go with three right-handed hurlers, Javier Assad certainly has an argument, as does Hayden Wesneski. The former could be viewed as a quality long-reliever, giving him some coveted versatility, and the latter will need to prove that his struggles against left-handed hitters last season were a fluke, allowing them to hit nearly .300 against him while slugging a staggering .617.

Finally, Drew Smyly will have something to say about his place in the mix, though questions of health will certainly come to the forefront as the team makes their decision.

Bullpen -

As things stand, the Cubs’ bullpen will likely come down to Adbert Alzolay and Hector Neris in terms of who will close games, though Mark Leiter Jr.’s splitter is always an attractive option in those situations.

Those three are shoe-ins for roster spots, as are Jose Cuas and Julian Merryweather, both of whom were key contributors down the stretch during the 2023 season.

After those five, the decisions come fast and furious, with the Cubs weighing whether they want to go with longer-relief options like Assad or Wesneski, or if they want to get other players like Daniel Palencia and Luke Little into the mix.

Yency Almonte, acquired in the Michael Busch trade, seems assured of a spot, but it’s unclear what role he will fill.

Finally, Keegan Thompson feels like a forgotten man after several solid seasons with the Cubs, but he’s going to have to fend off a lot of quality options in terms of non-roster invitees. Highlighting that list would be Carl Edwards Jr. and Edwin Escobar, but fans shouldn’t sleep on Thomas Pannone, Sam McWilliams, Richard Lovelady and Ethan Roberts.

Brad Wieck also remains in the mix.


Miguel Amaya and Yan Gomes would both seemingly have roster spots, but the big question will concern whether the Cubs will carry a third catcher, especially early in the season.

To that end, the team invited Jorge Alfaro to spring training, and has also been giving at-bats to Joe Hudson too. Either would be an intriguing candidate as an addition behind the plate and as a pinch hitter.


First Base –

The Cubs made it a point to acquire Michael Busch on the trade market from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he seemingly will get a good shot at frequent playing time at first base as a left-handed power threat in the lineup.

Aside from Busch, expect to see some Cody Bellinger in the mix at first, along with Patrick Wisdom.

The wild card is Matt Mervis, who ended up being sent to the minors for the back half of the 2023 season. Can he get a roster spot and prove that he can be a regular contributor, or will he be moved to another team in exchange for some help at another position?

The Cubs also reportedly signed former All-Star Garrett Cooper and veteran Dom Smith to minor league deals, so either could be available as insurance at the spot should the team make any moves.

Second Base –

The Cubs’ starter at this position will be Nico Hoerner, but the handling of his backup will reveal plenty. Nick Madrigal is seemingly out of the mix for a starting role at third base with Craig Counsell’s insistence on giving Christopher Morel frequent playing time there, but he can certainly be of use at second, as can Miles Mastrobuoni.

It seems as though moving one of those two players would give the Cubs some additional flexibility, especially with a glut of options at the corner spots.

Third Base –

This job is currently Morel’s on a primary basis, but other guys will certainly get chances, as Patrick Wisdom is still a legit power threat and Madrigal is a strong contact hitter.

Mastrobuoni could also serve as a backup here, especially with his versatility on the diamond.

Shortstop –

Dansby Swanson is instantly the starter here, and while Hoerner could see some time at short as his backup, one would expect Swanson to play just about every day.

The interesting component in this mix is Luis Vazquez. He had 20 home runs and 80 RBI’s last season at the minor league level, batting .271 in 528 plate appearances. He primarily played shortstop, but the Cubs could view him as an attractive power bat off the bench who can also fill in at second and third base, depending on need.


Left Field –

Ian Happ is the penciled in starter for the first game of the season, with several other players potentially seeing some time in the corner. That list is highlighted by Mike Tauchman, who would seem to have the inside track as a fourth outfielder for the Cubs based on his 2023 performance and his versatility.

Alex Canario and Morel could also get some time there, but don’t sleep on David Peralta, who played a ton of left field for the Dodgers in 2023 and who signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs, according to multiple reports. His defensive skill could be useful off the bench for Counsell.

Center Field –

Cody Bellinger immediately becomes the starter in center field, giving the Cubs plenty of room to be patient with the progress of Pete Crow-Armstrong. He could very well break camp with the club, but there’s a big argument to be made to give him regular playing time in the minors to start the season.

If the Cubs make that decision, expect Tauchman to be the primary backup, with Canario once again another attractive option.

Right Field –

Seiya Suzuki is the incumbent starter in right, with Tauchman and Canario both available for that spot.

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